DANNY ONEIL

Seahawks Playoff Watch: Why you don’t need to streak into postseason

Dec 12, 2019, 1:58 PM
Seahawks RB Chris Carson...
The Seahawks have a distinct advantage over the Vikings in the NFC playoff race. (Getty)
(Getty)

You’ve gotta be hot to win the Super Bowl, right?

Seahawks Playoff Scenarios: How Seattle can clinch berth in Week 15

You’d think that the team riding a blaze of glory into the playoffs has the best chance of running the table.

Nope. The Bears had the longest active winning streak of any playoff team entering the postseason last year, and they got bounced out of the playoffs in an almost literal sense when Cody Parkey’s field goal hit the upright then the crossbar and bounced out, giving the Eagles a victory in the wild-card round.

The Chiefs had won their final four regular-season games entering the playoffs in 2017 and they got bounced on opening weekend, too. And even back in 2015, when Kansas City had won 10 straight to close out the regular season, that momentum didn’t carry the Chiefs to anything more than a single win in the wild-card round before they were ushered home by the Patriots.

In other words, the fact that Seattle’s five-game win streak skidded to a halt last Sunday in Los Angeles isn’t any sort of dealbreaker for the Seahawks’ postseason chances.
Neither is their point differential. As concerning as it may be that Seattle has scored only 20 more points than it has allowed, that isn’t exactly a red flag signaling an imminent postseason flameout. The Cowboys and the Eagles had the lowest point differentials of any playoff teams in the NFC last season, and they each won in the wild-card round.

In 2016, the Houston Texans entered the playoffs as an eyesore, having given up 57 more points than they scored, and they still beat the Oakland Raiders in the divisional round.

In other words, don’t hold your breath as Seattle closes in on a playoff berth. There’s still plenty of reason to shout.

Seahawks Playoff Watch: Week 15

Seahawks at Panthers, 10 a.m.

The Seahawks can’t clinch a playoff berth with a simple win. They would need to win in conjunction with a loss by either the Vikings or the Rams to be guaranteed a playoff spot, but if Seattle wins two of its final three games there is no scenario in which the Seahawks wouldn’t be in the postseason.

Vikings at Chargers, 1 p.m.

The Seahawks have a one-game lead over the Vikings and also a head-to-head tiebreaker with Minnesota, and with a game against Green Bay next week, the Vikings are more concerned about the Rams team that’s one game behind them in the wild-card standings than they are about passing Seattle in the pecking order.

Rams at Cowboys, 1:25 p.m.

Los Angeles has played better over the past two weeks, but they’ve got a road game against San Francisco waiting on the other side of this one and pretty much no margin for error. The Rams must win their final three games and Seattle must lose two of its final three for the Rams to have even a chance of passing Seattle in the wild-card standings.

Falcons at 49ers, 1:25 p.m.

A 49ers loss would give Seattle a little wiggle room in its path to a division title, but it wouldn’t change the overriding fact that Seattle will almost certainly need a victory over San Francisco in the regular-season finale to win the NFC West. All a San Francisco loss would mean for Seattle is that the Seahawks could lose one of their next two and still win the division by defeating the 49ers in Week 17.

If you want to get really wacky, there is still a (very remote) chance that Seattle could lose the regular-season finale against San Francisco and still win the division.

Here’s how that could happen:

Seattle wins its next two games at Carolina and vs. Arizona.

San Francisco loses its next two games vs. Atlanta and at home to the Rams.

San Francisco then beats Seattle in the regular-season finale.

At that point, both teams would be 12-4 overall, 4-2 division and 9-3 in the conference. Those are the first three tie-breaking criteria.

The fourth tie-breaker criteria is record against common opponents: both are 9-3 with Seattle’s losses coming to New Orleans, Baltimore and the Rams while the 49ers losses would be to Baltimore, the Rams and the Falcons.

The next tiebreaker is strength of victory, and in this case, both teams would have victories over Arizona (twice), the Rams, the Panthers, the Bucs, the Steelers, the Browns and the Bengals. Seattle would also have victories over Minnesota (9-4), Atlanta (4-9) and Philadelphia (6-7) and San Francisco would then have victories over Green Bay (10-3), Washington (3-10) and New Orleans (10-3). The 49ers currently hold the edge in that category by four wins, meaning that the Vikings, Falcons and Eagles would have to combine for at least four more wins than the Packers, Washington and the Saints over the final three weeks for the Seahawks to have a chance at winning the division in this diabolically complicated and totally unrealistic scenario.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny O’Neil on Twitter.

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